Why This Matters

Young adults (ages 16-24) who lack support in education, employment, housing and other basic necessities find it difficult to make the transition to adulthood. As a result, some become “disconnected youth” – young people who are not working, in school, or otherwise positively engaged.

When youth remain disconnected from these positive pursuits, our communities bear the burden of a weaker economy, a smaller tax base, and higher expenditures on public benefits. All of us have a responsibility to determine who these disconnected youth are, find ways of reconnecting them, and learn how to prevent other youth from becoming disconnected.

What Are The Facts?

  • In Westchester County, roughly 12,000 young people may be at risk of becoming disconnected because they are neither working nor in school.[1]
  • $13,900 is the estimated annual tax burden for each disconnected youth age 16-24, for a lifetime total of $258,240.[2]
  • In 2011, 9,082 of 150,459 students enrolled in Westchester public schools were suspended. School suspensions are a leading precursor to involvement in the juvenile justice system.[3]
  • 47.6% of Westchester students that graduated from public high school in 2013 were not ready for college.[4]
  • African Americans have the highest rate of disconnection (22.5% nationally).[5]
  • For foster youth, a lack of family support, limited skills, learning disabilities, and health and emotional problems result in a higher number of foster youth becoming disconnected after they age out of foster care.[6]Connecting Youth Graphic

We Can Do Better

Young people never fully recover from long spells of disconnection from school or work. Instead they carry the consequences of those lost years for the rest of their lives in the form of lower wages, worse health, greater unemployment, more contact with the criminal justice system, lower marriage rates and more.

Given the lifetime cost of a disconnected young person, investments in solutions are overdue, including:

  • Enhancing county, state, and federal youth employment programs
  • Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility in New York State to 18 years of age
  • Reducing exclusionary and suspension-based discipline practices in schools by encouraging restorative practices


[1] Measure of America & Opportunity Nation. Opportunity Index. 2014, http://opportunityindex.org/#9.00/41.122/-73.795/Westchester/New+York.

[2] Bridgeland, J & Milano, J. Opportunity Road: The Promise and Challenge of America’s Forgotten Youth. January 2012, http://www.dol.gov/summerjobs/pdf/OpportunityRoad.pdf.

[3] Student Advocacy. Solutions Not Suspensions: A Call to Action for a Better Approach to School Discipline in Westchester Schools, November 2013, http://www.studentadvocacy.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/A-Call-for-a-Better-Approach-to-School-Discipline-FINAL.pdf.

[4] New York State Education Department. Graduation Rate Data – June 23, 2014, http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/pressRelease/20140623/home.html.

[5]  Burd-Sharps, S., & Lewis, K. One in 7: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas. 2012, http://www.measureofamerica.org/one-in-seven/.

[6] Hair, E.C., PhD, Sidorowicz, K., Martin, L., & Milot, A. U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The Mental Health of Vulnerable Youth and Their Transition to Adulthood: Assessing the Role of the Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, and Runaway/Homeless Systems. August 2009, http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/09/YouthMentalHealth/Services/rb.pdf.

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